Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

substantial prop.

LECT. columns, for instance, are undoubtedly orha

mental; but as they have an appearance of weakness, they always displease when they are made use of to support any part of a building that is mafiy, and that seems to require a more

We cannot look upon any work whatever, without being led, by a natural association of ideas, to think of its end and design, and of course to exanine the propriety of its parts, in relation to this design and end. When their propriety is clearly discerned, the work seems always to have some Beauty ; but when there is a total want of propriety, it never fails of appearing deformed. Our sense of fitness and design, therefore, is so powerful, and holds so high a rank among our perceptions, as to regulate, in a great measure, our other ideas of Beauty : An observation which I the rather make, as it is of the utmost importance, that all who study composition should carefully attend to it. For, in an epic poem, a history, an oration, or any work of genius, we always require, as we do in other works, a fitness, or adjustment of means, to the end which the author is sup: posed to have in view. Let his descriptions be ever so rich, or his figures ever so elegant, yet, if they are out of place, if they are not proper parts of that whole, if they suit not the main design, they lose all their Beauty ; nay, from Beauties they are converted into De.

fornities.

I

[ocr errors]

formities. Such power has our sense of fitness L E C T. and congruity, to produce a tatal transformation of an object whose appearance otherwise would have been Beautiful.

After having mentioned so many various species of Beauty, it now only remains to take notice of Beauty as it is applied to writing or discourse; a term commonly used in a sense altogether loose and undetermined. For it is applied to all that pleases, either in style or in sentiment, from whatever principle that pleasure Aows; and a Beautiful poem or oration means, in common language, no other than a good one, or one well composed. In this sense, it is plain, the word is altogether indefinite, and points at no particular species or kind of Beauty. There is, however, another sense, fomewhat more definite, in which Beauty of writing characterises a particular manner ; when it is used to signify a certain grace

and amænity in the turn either of style or sentiment, for which fome authors have been peculiarly diftinguished. In this sense, it denotes a manner neither remarkably sublime, nor vehemently passionate, nor uncommonly sparkling; but such as raises in the reader an emotion of the gentle placid kind, similar to what is raised by the contemplation of beautiful objects in nature ; which neither lifts the mind very high, nor agitates it very much, VOL. I.

I

buc

[ocr errors]

LECT, but diffuses over the imagination an agreeable and pleasing serenity.

serenity. Mr. Addison is a writer altogether of this character; and is one of the most proper and precise examples that can be given of it. Fenelon, the author of the Adventures of Telemachus, may be given as another example. Virgil too, though very capable of rising on occasions into the Sublime, yet, in his general manner, is distinguished by the character of Beauty and Grace, rather than of Sublimity. Among orators, Cicero has more of the Beautiful than Demosthenes, whose genius led him wholly towards vehemence and strength.

This much it is sufficient to have said upon the subject of Beauty. We have traced it through a variety of forms; as next to Sublimity, it is the most copious fource of the Pleasures of Taste; and as the confideration of the different appearances, and principles of Beauty, tends to the improvement of Taste in many subjects.

But it is not only by appearing under the forms of Sublime or Beautiful, that objects delight the imagination. From several other principles also, they derive their power of giving it pleasure.

NOVELTT,

[ocr errors]

Novelty, for instance, has been men- LECT. tioned by Mr. Addison, and by every writer on this subject. An object which has no merit to recommend it, except its being uncommon or new, by means of this quality alone, produces in the mind a vivid and an agreeable emotion. Hence that passion of curiosity, which prevails so generally among mankind. Objects and ideas which have been long familiar, make too faint an impression to give an agreeable exercise to our faculties. New and strange objects rouse the mind from its dor mant state, by giving it a quick and pleasing impulse. Hence, in a great measure, the entertainment afforded us by fiction and ro.

The einotion raised by Novelty is of a more lively and pungent nature, than that produced by Beauty; but much shorter in its continuance. For if the object have in itself no charms to hold our attention, the shining gloss thrown upon it by Novelty foon wears off.

imance.

Besides Novelty, Imitation is another source of Pleasure to Tafte. This gives rise to what Mr. Addison terms, the Secondary Pleasures of Imagination; which form, doubtless, a very extensive class. For all Imitation affords some pleasure; not only the Imitation of beautiful or great objects, by recalling the original ideas of Beauty or Gran

deur

I 2

[ocr errors]

LECT deur which such objects themselves exhibited;

but even objects which have neither Beauty nor Grandeur, nay, fome which are terrible or deformed, please us in a fecondary or reprefented view.

The Pleasures of Melody and Harmony belong also to. Talte. There is no agreeable fensation we receive, either from Beauty or Sublimity, but what is capable of being heightened by the power of musical found. Hence the delight of poetical ríumbers; and éven of the more concealed and loofer meafures of profe.

Wit, Humour, and Ridicule likewise open a variety of Pleasures to Taste, quite diftinct from any that we have yet considered.

At present it is not necessary to pursue aný farther the subject of the Pleasures of Taste. I have opened fome of the general principles ; it is time now to make the application to our chief subject. If the question be put, To what class of those Pleasures of Taste which I have enumerated, that Pleasure is to be re. ferred, which we receive from poetry, eloquence, or fine writing? My answer is, Not to any one, but to them all. This singular advantage, writing and discourse poffefs, that they encompafs fo large and rich a field on all fides, and have power to exhibit, in great

perfection,

-41

« PreviousContinue »